“When you hold yourself separate from the world, you cheat others of the light God has placed inside you. There is no love without risk, without hurt.”
Journey to 1933 Yellowstone Park with Karen Barnett’s “Ever Faithful,” her most recent addition to her Vintage National Parks series.
After a tragic experience as a child on the East Coast, Elsie Brookes has grown up in Yellowstone National Park. Her father a park ranger, Elsie is a “pillow puncher,” a maid at one of the many inns located in the park.
With a dream of one day becoming a teacher, Elsie can put her dream to the test when she’s tasked with teaching school to a group of new Civilian Conservation Corps members — a group that was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that brought unemployed men to work on federal lands.
In order to protect his younger brother from legal issues, Brooklyn boy Nate Webber joins the CCC to provide money for his family and food for their table. As officials at the park sees Nate’s serious and responsible nature, they give him more and more authority within the group. The only problem? Nate has trouble reading and writing.
As Elsie begins to spend more and more time with Nate, eventually suspecting his struggle, she tutors him, drawing them closer and closer. Nate struggles with the feeling of being good enough for Elsie, and she struggles with the scars from her past trauma, making it difficult for her to surrender to a relationship. And with devastating occurrences happening at the park and Elsie’s impending jaunt to college, will their relationship be able to last?
While this book is definitely a romance, it is so much more. “Ever Faithful” is a piece of historical fiction, teaching us the history of Yellowstone Park and the CCC program (be sure to read the Author’s Note for more information), as well as a piece of suspense, as mysterious and dangerous events that mirror Elsie’s own past traumatic event occur — events that could allow Elsie’s and Nate’s future to go up in smoke.
As always, Barnett does an incredible job of combining fact with fiction, spinning a lovely tale with amazing characters. Both Elsie and Nate have some very real, very deep issues that make them completely relatable. Readers will also fall in love with fun and quirky supporting characters like Elsie’s friend Mary and fellow CCC member Red. And Barnett even throws in a couple of adorable baby raccoons (although I’d have like to have seen more of them).
“Ever Faithful” also does a great job of providing several important themes — like having a servant’s heart; the Golden Rule (see Luke 6:31); following your dreams and overcoming your fears by opening yourself up to risks; holding on to anger only weakens you; forgiveness isn’t earned, it’s bestowed; the impact of using our scars as shields; God creates us all differently; and God has a plan for each of us (see Jeremiah 29:11).
With Nate’s story, Barnett also brings attention to learning issues, including dyslexia.
I don’t know if there will be another book in this series, but I sure hope so!
Five stars out of five.
Waterbrook provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
“Ever Faithful” (Vintage National Park series, #3) by Karen Barnett